2018 Youth Garden Grant Winner: Indian Run Elementary, Dublin City Schools

Grow2Serve GardenThrough their Grow2Serve Garden in Dublin, Ohio, students at Indian Run Elementary School are providing their local food pantry with a nutritious supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sparked by student and faculty interest in contributing to their community, the planning process began in 2010 with school staff members contacting the Dublin Food Pantry to inquire about their interest in receiving produce donations. The garden is still flourishing eight years later; over 700 students and 50 volunteer families grow approximately 200 pounds of food each year to share with members of the community.

Grow2Serve Garden “We donate all the produce to the Dublin Food Pantry, except for the occasional tasting event in our school cafeteria for our students,” shares Intervention Specialist and Garden Coordinator Mary Anne Brown. “The pantry is located across the street from the garden. The produce is very fresh — sometimes families can enjoy produce harvested the same day. Grow2Serve is an invaluable asset to the Dublin community, introducing students to agriculture and the plant life cycle, encouraging an appreciation for fruits and vegetables, fostering an environment of service and compassion, and nurturing friendships of all ages.”

The garden is closely integrated into the school’s curriculum, including science, math, art, reading, health, and special education. The space includes eight raised beds, each 4 feet by 12 feet. Plants grown in the garden include tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, lettuce, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, green beans, beets, radishes, Swiss chard, cilantro, basil, and parsley. “We work closely with teachers at Indian Run and representatives from the Dublin Food Pantry in an attempt to grow what's most beneficial to the community.”

Along with the vegetable plantings, the garden includes a raised bed dedicated to a sensory garden that accommodates students of all abilities. This bed hosts engaging plants like Orange Fizz geranium (scent), lamb's ear (soft touch), sedum (rubbery touch), purple coneflower (sight), tri-color sage (smell and taste), New England aster (sight, butterflies), milkweed (sight, Monarch butterflies), and English lavender (scent).

Grow2Serve GardenThe garden is quite an undertaking for an elementary school. In addition to the students at Indian Run, Grow2Serve also has volunteers from West Bridge Academy students (a non-traditional education center) and post-secondary students who are involved in a peer mentoring program. Mary Anne shares that they are also hoping to begin involving a local retirement community and the Dublin Senior Citizens Council to foster intergenerational relationships.

When school is closed for summer vacation, around 50 Indian Run families volunteer to maintain the garden. According to Mary Anne, “Our summer family volunteers cherish the time spent together in the garden. None of this would be possible without the continued hard work and dedication of our many volunteers.”

We asked Mary Anne if she could provide a few tips for schools considering creating a donation garden and she suggested:

  • Try to get as many people involved for volunteering: various student groups, adults, and administration and community volunteers.
  • Make a plan for summer volunteering with an electronic sign-up system with email reminders. If possible, overlap volunteers in case one of them can't be there.
  • Hold a training session explaining expectations, what is planted, when to harvest, watering procedures, and donation instructions.
  • Have a binder with pictures of vegetables and herbs planted, and watering and harvesting instructions.
  • Research local food pantries and other hunger-relief organizations that might be in need of fresh produce in your local community and contact them before you begin.